By Duane Ranger
Joanednobettor upset them in Wednesday’s Te Awamatu (Grass) Cup, but it was a highly regarded 3-year-old taking on the older four to 12-year-old trotters who stole the limelight at the Waipa Racecourse.
Unlike Joanednobettor, who was the $8.50 sixth favourite, the Derek Balle trained and driven War Machine was favoured to win the $7,600 Crowe Howarth Ltd Handicap for the R48 and faster trotters.
It was the 3-year-old Pegasus Spur colt’s third victory in seven starts.
“He’s a big, tall horse who is still going through a few growing pains, but I couldn’t be happier with him. He also did a good job winning two races last season and this was his first start in 2016-2017.
“He’s furnishing into a nice trotter. He’s got the most potential of any trotter in our barn. He certainly makes the job worth getting up for,” Pukekohe-based Balle said.
War Machine and Balle started from the unruly mark (4) on the front line and began brilliantly finding themselves trailing and then third with a lap remaining.
They looked ominous on the home turn when War Machine was in the one-one. Then in the straight he cruised to victory – only getting a couple of taps on the rump in the final stages.
War Machine trotted the 2450m handicap in 3:27.5 (mile rate 2:16.3) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 64.5 and 32.6.
“The time wasn’t anything flash but I just liked the way he hit the line. He did it fairly easily really.
“He has such good standing start manners and that helped him a lot today. That will definitely take him a long way in this trotting game,” Balle said.
He said he would most likely keep War Machine on the grass for his next few starts before a possible nudge at some of the 3-year-old trotting group races at Addington at Easter.
“He’s got a bit of bottom to him and I want to look after him so I’ll race him at Rotorua next and then look after his legs on the grass after that as well.
“If he keeps improving I would consider taking him to Christchurch at Easter for the Sires Stakes Champs and then maybe back to Auckland for the Group One Northern Trotting Derby in late April,” Balle said.
“I’ll probably put David (Butcher) on him later on, but who knows this could be the start of my driving comeback,” he light heartedly added.
Balle, who is also a director on the Auckland Trotting Club Board said he was rapt for Southlander Kenny Baynes who owned War Machine. He also had Cool Cobber with Balle. He won nine races and more than $100,000.
He said Baynes travelled north to attend a Weanling Sale in 2014 and paid about $4,000 for War Machine.
“He bought him and then took him back home, fed him and then sent him back to me as a 2-year-old. I’m delighted to be training for the Baynes family. Kenny said he wanted to have another horse with me because he enjoyed travelling to Auckland to watch his horses race at Alexandra Park,” said Balle.
War Machine was bred by Jenny Langdon (Gold Coast) and Trish Green (Ardmore),
In fact it was a lucrative day for Baynes Racing Ltd. They had two winners in two days on two Islands.
The Robin Swain trained and Matty Williamson driven Royal Bengal also notched up his first win in three starts at Gore on Tuesday.
Meanwhile the John and Josh Dickie trained Joanednobettor proved too smart for her seven opponents in the feature pace of the day – the $8,000 Brown & Pennell Te Awamutu Grass Cup for the R60 and faster horses.
Dickie (Josh) settled the Bettor’s Delight mare in fifth (single file) at the bell. Then on the home turn they pounced out of the one-one and out-sprinted them in the lane to win by a length.
Shew paced the 2450m stand from her 10m handicap in 3:24 even (mile rate 2:13.9) and home in 59.8 and 29.1.
It was the 5-year-old’s seventh win from 45 starts. She’s also placed 13 times and banked $56,820.
Wednesday’s Te Awamutu Cup was the first of five Country Cup meetings to be staged over the summer. The others are:
January 15: Rotorua Grass Cup.
January 21: Parawai Cup at Thames.
January 27: Wellington Cup at Kapiti Coast.
January 29: Otaki Cup at Kapiti Coast.